- Bay Leaf
- St. John’s Wort
- Sweet Violet
- Vervain / Verbena
Herb superstitions was a quite serious matter. As with so many other objects, herbs played a major role in folklore and in the superstitious minded people of the past.
Some herbs also can be traced back to Greek and Roman mythology.
Here we have started to explore some of the folklore and superstitions connected to common herbs. We hope this page will grow as we dig deeper into the subject.
Angelica is known by many names: Root of the Holy Ghost, Garden angelica, Wild celery, and Norwegian angelica.
Angelica got its name from a legend about a monk who was informed by the archangel Michael that Angelica could help cure the plague.
Angelica is mentioned in Heimskringla (King’s Saga) written by Snorre Sturlason (1179-1241). King Olaf I Tryggvason of Norway (963-1000) is desperate to please his wife Thyri. He offers her the ultimate gift; a stick of angelica.
It was believed that the Angelica herb would protect against all evil and was a cure for most all ills.
In Medieval Europe most people believed witchcraft and spiteful curses lurked around and could potentially threaten the well-being of innocent people. Every measure was taken to protect themselves from these scary threats.
One remedy was to wear a piece of Angelica root under their garments making sure it was in contact with the skin. This was considered a powerful talisman and used as protection against being the next victim of a devastating curse.
Angelica root was used as an auspicious amulet when hunting.
The Angelica amulet was not only useful when hunting. The Angelica amulet was also a tool used by the superstitious to favorably attract the person they wished to court. This root could speed up the process of getting a “yes” from the person who you had fallen in love with.
Furthermore, you could hide some Angelica under the sheets in the bed. This would ensure that the lovemaking would be an unforgettable and spectacular experience. All tendencies of infidelity would forgotten.
Another widely accepted belief was that eating angelica would eliminate impotence and in turn enrich the love life. Maybe this is one of the reasons it became so popular during the Middle Ages?
The great English herbalist John Parkinson (1567-1650) named Angelica as one of the most important of all medicinal herbs.
Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) was a famous English herbalist. It was his opinion that Angelica was one of the best remedies to treat plague epidemics. As late as 1919 many were known to chew Angelica to ward off the Spanish flu.
During the Second World War some used Angelica root as a tobacco substitute.
The Basil plant is the king of herbs. The name “Basil” comes from the Greek word “basileus” which literally means king.
An old European superstition tells us that Basil should be grown in the garden to ensure harmony in the home. Make sure you have at least one Basil plant in your home.
In Ancient Rome Basil was used as a remedy to help relieve gas.
Holy Basil – Tulsi
Tulsi basil (also spelled Tulasi) is known as Holy Basil is important and sacred in India. A Tulsi plant is often planted in the courtyard of a Hindu home.
There is an important reason to pay special attention to the Holy Basil and make sure this plant is well cared for. A healthy Tulsi will work favorably to devotees when asking to be forgiven from their sins. The gods favor homes where a Tulsi thrives.
It is common to offer Tulsi leaves to Lord Krishna to receive salvation. Prayers to the Tulsi plant will bring about the blessings of Lord Vishnu and Sati Vrinda.
The Tulsi plant is very auspicious in India and it is said to remove tension. Taking a bath with a few Tulsi leaves in the water is considered a sacred bath.
“Lord Hari is not so pleased after bathing with thousands of pots filled with celestial nectar, as he is when even a single leaf of Tulsi is offered to him” Brahmvaivartpuran, Prakritikhand 21:40
Tulsi mixed with water from the river Ganges is traditionally put in the mouth of a dying person to ensure the departing soul a safe journey to heaven.
The story tells that the goddess Tulsi, also known as Vrinda was married to the evil asura named Jalandhar.
She was a faithful devotee of Vishnu as well as a faithful wife and prayed for her husband’s safekeeping and for this reason her husband was unconquerable.
Vishnu disguised himself as Jalandhar and seduced her.
Her husband could now be defeated and was killed shortly after. Vrinda was horrified when she learned the truth and killed herself.
The Holy Basil (Tulsi) grew from the ashes of her body. Tulsi, the Basil plant was blessed by the gods.
Tulsi was blessed by the gods.
There is an old saying that a Bay Laurel tree in the garden or in a pot placed close to the entrance is very auspicious.
Bay Laurel will help prevent evil entering the home.
The Bay Laurel tree was also believed to protect the home from getting hit by lightning.
In Greek mythology the beautiful nymph named Daphne was changed to a Bay Laurel tree.
The Greek god Apollo was madly in love with Daphne. Apollo was the god of music, art, fortune telling and the sun. He became completely obsessed with Daphne.
Unfortunately for Apollo, Daphne didn’t return his feelings. She was appalled and desperate to get away from Apollo and his request to make love.
Daphne pleaded the gods to make Apollo leave her alone. The gods answered her request by transforming her to a Bay Laurel tree.
The Bay Laurel tree immediately became sacred to Apollo. Fresh Laurel leaves were presented in honor of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi. Apollo himself wore a wreath made up of Bay Laurel.
Bay Laurel was believed to attract prosperity and success. The death of a Bay Laurel tree was considered an extremely bad omen.
In Ancient Rome the Bay Laurel was a symbol of victory.
During the American Revolution the chamomile plant was nicknamed “the Whig Plant”. It was said that the more you stepped on it the stronger it grew. The patriots who were in favor of the American Revolution during that time in history were nicknamed “the Whigs”.
William Shakespeare included the chamomile in the play Henry IV:
“The Chamomile; the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows.” Henry IV, part 1
Chicory was known as a plant which would bring good luck. During the great Gold Rush in California in 1849 many gold diggers carried Chicory in their pockets for good luck.
In Germany Chicory is called Wegwarte meaning “watcher of the road”. One story to explain the name is about an unfortunate and heartbroken young maiden. She stood waiting for her loved one.
He never showed up. She never gave up. Eventually the young maiden was found dead lying on a bunch of Chicory flowers.
In Indonesia some used to plant a Clove tree when a baby boy was born. The health of the Clove tree would reflect the boy’s health.
In Ancient China it was customary for anyone speaking to the Emperor to chew on a Clove as this was said to sweeten the breath.
Cloves have been used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years.
Cumin seeds have been used since ancient times.
In Ancient Egypt Cumin was used as a medicinal plant. It was used to treat distress of the digestive system, for coughs and as a painkiller. Used as a painkiller it must have been the placebo effect at work. It is remarkable what works when you believe it will work!
In Ancient Greece Cumin symbolized greed and did not have a favorable reputation. Only stingy and mean people ate it according to the Ancient Greeks.
People who loved the taste and aroma of Cumin probably ate it in secret. Perhaps they had a Cumin Anonymous society, who knows?
During the Middle Ages Cumin was extremely popular in Europe. As other spices were introduced to the market Cumin sadly lost popularity.
During the Middle Ages Dill was used as an aphrodisiac. A superstitious bride put a few Dill seeds in her shoe on her wedding day. The bridegroom also did his part making sure there were some Dill seeds in his pocket.
The Dill seeds were supposed to work its magic and the couple could look forward to a long and joyful marriage. Surely, they would also be blessed with children.
Once the baby was born, it was again time for Dill seeds to go to work. A few Dill seeds were placed in a tiny bag and hidden in the crib. This was one of many superstitions carried out to make sure the baby was protected from evil forces.
Dill seeds were also called “prayer-seeds”. They were sometimes given to children during long services at church. It was told chewing Dill seeds would keep them quiet and the children would not get hungry during lengthy sermons.
Elder was believed in England and Northern Europe to be inhabited by “Mother Elder”. It was said one always had to ask Mother Elder for permission before cutting the Elder tree. One was also expected to apologize for the act.
Cutting down an Elder tree without permission from the spirit of Mother Elder who resided in the tree would bring the woodsman great harm and would cause death to other plants and trees in the garden.
If you absolutely had to cut an Elder tree it was important to bow three times and recite “Mother Elder, Mother Elder, Give me some of your wood and when I am dead I’ll give you some of mine”.
Furniture should never be made from Elder wood, especially a crib for the baby. Any one in possession of Elder wood furniture was sure to have ill fortune.
Another superstition was that if you hit children or animals with an Elder stick you would live to deeply regret the act.
In Russia there was a superstition that the Elder would keep the evil spirits away from the property.
In England there was an old superstition that lightning never struck an Elder.
Also, in England it was considered extremely unlucky to burn an Elder tree.
A cross made from Elder wood and hung on the door of the stable or barn was supposed to protect the animals from evil spirits.
Elderberries collected on St. John’s Eve (June 23rd) would protect the person from witchcraft.
Carrying a twig of Elder was considered especially auspicious.
Eyebright’s official name is Euphrasia. Euphrasia is derived from the name “Euphrosyne”.
Euphrosyne was one of the three Graces in Roman mythology. The three Graces were followers of the goddess of love named Venus.
The three Graces were known for their beauty and they were responsible for handing out the gift of physical beauty to humans they themselves chose.
One legend tells the story that Euphrosyne received the eyebright flower and then gave it to the humans so that mankind could preserve their eyesight and enjoy all the splendors of the world.
In Greek mythology they were known as the three Charities and were followers of the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the equivalent of Venus in Roman mythology.
In Greek/Roman mythology the three Charities/Graces are named Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Thalia.
Fennel symbolizes courage. This was especially the case in Ancient Rome. They had a strong belief in the magic powers of fennel. So much so that the Roman gladiators were fed Fennel seeds before entering the arena. They were convinced these seeds would eliminate the fear they must have felt knowing what awaited them beyond the gate.
During the Middle Ages in Europe Midsummer Night’s Eve was bursting with all kinds of superstitions. This was the night when ghosts, evil spirits and witches lurked around and represented a real threat.
Obviously, people would go to great lengths to prevent ghosts from trespassing into their home. Fennel was one of the weapons used to keep the evil spirts from entering their property.
Many would hang a Fennel Bulb on the door, gate or wall of their home. As an extra precaution Fennel seeds were stuffed in the keyholes.
Fennel was useful in other situations as well. Fennel placed in a flower bouquet made a statement to the receiver. It was a message that that person was admired and to be congratulated. In the language of flowers, it meant “you are worthy of praise”.
Fennel & Fire
In Greek mythology there was an intelligent and quick Titan named Prometheus. His name means “forethought”. He was constantly seeking to improve the living conditions of the humans. He requested Zeus’ support in his mission to help the humans. Zeus was in no way comparative.
Prometheus wished to give the humans the gift of fire.
On one occasion, Prometheus slaughtered an ox and offered the best parts to the humans. Zeus knew what he was up to and purposely helped himself to the worst piece. This gave him an excuse to go into a fit. Zeus hid the fire in the sky.
Being smart and stubborn, Prometheus found a solution. He went to the heavens, got the fire and hid it inside a hollow Fennel stalk and quickly presented it to the humans.
Zeus was furious and wanted revenge. He ordered his son, Hephaestus to create the first woman. He decided that Pandora was to marry the brother of Prometheus. Prometheus warned his brother not to accept anything from Zeus, but unfortunately his brother was far from smart. They were wed.
Pandora was instructed that she must never open the golden jar was placed within her reach. Her curiosity got the better of her. As she opened the lid all sickness, disasters and plagues fled out into the world. Only “hope” was left inside the jar.
Mankind received the gift of fire. Sadly, this act also led up to all the disasters and miseries that have haunted mankind as a result of Pandoras jar. The Fennel was although never forgotten and remained sacred to Prometheus.
Hawthorn was sacred to the goddess Cardea. She was goddess of the door-hinges in Ancient Rome.
Hawthorn had the power through Cardea to exclude malicious impacts from entering the home.
Cardea was the courtesan of the two-faced Roman god named Janus. He could see the past and the future. The month of January got its name from Janus. The first day of the month was dedicated to his lover, the goddess Cardea.
Cardea was known to safeguard small children through Hawthorn.
In Ancient Greece the Hawthorn symbolized joy.
A romantic superstition claimed that if a young maiden wished to marry, she must pick a Hawthorn flower and walk home in complete silence.
A Hawthorn grown close to the home would bring good luck. Just remember never to take its flowers inside.
In Scotland they had a superstition about forecasting the winter by observing the Hawthorn. If the Hawthorn had an abundance of haws, the winter would be hard and cold. The old saying went like the: “Many haws, many snows”.
For many centuries people throughout Europe believed that Hawthorn would protect against fire. Others believed that a sprig of Hawthorn would protect the carrier from lightning.
Superstitions that a Hawthorn hedge would protect the property from wicked fairies were known in Ireland.
In the old Celtic Ogham tree alphabet the Hawthorn was a sacred tree and represented with the letter H.
Hawthorn flowers were earlier collected and used to decorate the Maypole. The flower wreaths were female symbols surrounding the phallic pole. When people were on a mission gathering blossoms for the Maypole it was called “going-a-Maying”.
An old English superstition implied that it was very unlucky to sleep in a room with Hawthorn flowers. These flowers were called “May flowers” and many believed bringing Hawthorn flowers into the home would forecast the death of a family member. A saying went like this: “May flower in – coffin out”.
Hawthorn flowers do decay very quickly and when they decay, they produce an appalling smell which may have seemed like the smell of death.
In Christian tradition many believe that the thorn crown Jesus was made to wear was made of Hawthorn.
In the old legend of the Glastonbury Thorn it is told that Joseph of Arimethea put his walking rod in the ground in Glastonbury, England. According to legend the staff was made from the wood of the same tree as the crown of thorns which Jesus wore.
The staff miraculously sprouted into a Hawthorn tree. This tree naturally became holy and a Christian chapel was soon built on the site.
This was no ordinary Hawthorn tree. The Glastonbury Hawthorn blossoms twice yearly. This tree has been replaced several times.
To this very day the Glastonbury tree blooms just around Christmas and in the spring. Every Christmas a branch from the Holy Glastonbury Thorn by St. John’s Church is cut and given to the Majesty of the U.K.
There is another Holy Hawthorn tree on the Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury.
Hyssop has a long history of being used as a medicinal herb. The healing properties of this herb have been known for centuries. The Ancient Romans used it to fight plague.
The name originates from the Greek word “azob” which means “holy herb”. It has traditionally been used to cleanse temples and churches.
During the Middle Ages hyssop was uses to clean rooms where sick people resided. Hyssop tea was added to the water when cleaning.
People who suffered from negative energies in their home were recommended to sweep the whole house with a broom made from Hyssop branches. This act would cleanse their home from negative vibes.
Hyssop has throughout history had an auspicious reputation. It has consistently been used to cleanse, purify and heal.
Hyssop in the Bible
Hyssop is the sacred and cleansing herb of the Bible.
In Exodus 12:22 Moses instructs the elders of Israel to mark the lintel and doorposts with blood from the Passover lamb. They were instructed to use a bunch of Hyssop dipped in blood. The angel of death would pass each home marked in this manner.
Solomon had great wisdom. Men came from all the kings just to hear him speak. In 1. King 4:33 we it states Solomon also had knowledge of hyssop.
Psalms 51:7 is an example of hyssop as a purifying and cleansing herb: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
When Jesus hung on the cross, he said he was thirst and they held a sponge with vinegar on hyssop to his mouth. John 19:29
In Ancient Rome they used Marigold to make broth. The Marigold broth was thought to be a good remedy against depression. Drinking this was supposed to lift their spirits.
During the Middle Ages this flower was called Mary’s Gold in honor of the Virgin Mary. This was a time and age when many people were superstitious in Europe.
Tons of different superstitions flourished around the continent about all sorts of things. Marigold was no exception.
It was told that if a maiden wished to get the attention of a young man it would help to keep a Marigold flower in her pocket.
Keeping Marigold flowers in your pocket if you had to appear in court would influence the judge to treat you kindly.
Fresh Marigold flowers in a room would bring positive energy into the home.
If Marigold flowers showed up in your dreams it was considered a good omen.
Marigold flowers in the bath water would help the person taking the bath win respect.
In Mexico Marigold is often associated with honoring a dearly departed and a symbol of grieving.
One legend tells the story that the Marigold appeared in the bold covered fields after the Spanish conquers had slaughtered many of the native tribes of the country.
Meadowsweet was a favored herb of Queen Elizabeth I of England. She loved the sweet scent and insisted on having meadowsweet as a strewed herb in her bed chambers.
Meadowsweet was one of the three most scared herbs of the Druids. The other two were water mint (Mentha Aquatica) and vervain (Verbena Officinalis).
During the Middle Ages meadowsweet was often used to flavor mead. For this reason, it was often called “meadwort”.
Meadowsweet has a long history of being associated with romance. In earlier times it was not uncommon to use meadowsweet in wreaths for the bride. It was also used scattered at weddings. This is why meadowsweet also had the nickname “bridewort”.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation that you have to appear in court to fight any kind of injustice you have encountered, be sure to keep a whole nutmeg seed in your pocket.
The nutmeg in the pocket seed is an old superstition which is thought to bring special luck when fighting legal matters. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try, just to be on the safe side.
Some also keep a nutmeg seed in their pocket when playing games of pure chance. They believe this will please Lady Luck and improve their chances of winning.
Nutmeg was expensive in Europe during the 18th and 19th century.
Nutmeg became a symbol of wealth.
People who could afford it would keep a whole nutmeg in their pocket together with a small grater made especially for nutmegs.
When eating out they would grate a little nutmeg and sprinkle on the food they were served and thereby showing off their wealthy status.
In Ancient Greece it was a good omen if anyone found Oregano growing on a grave. That was a sure sign that the dead person was doing well in afterlife.
It was also a symbol of joy and often part of the wraths worn by the bride and groom. They also believed it would protect them from evil powers.
In Ancient Greece parsley was associated with mourning and death.
Old English folklore also considered parsley to be an unlucky plant. It is a known fact that Parsley may be difficult to grown and it surely takes a long time to sprout. That may be the reason that during the nineteenth century in England there was the following saying;
“When parsley is sown it goes nine times to the Devil before it comes up. Only the wicked can make parsley grow.”
An old English superstition said that it was very unlucky to receive Parsley as a gift, but auspicious to steal parsley.
Not all superstitions about Parsley were of the unlucky nature. Sowing Parsley on a Sunday as the church bells were ringing was lucky. Also sowing parsley on Good Friday would ensure good fortune.
Some believed the superstition that the woman was the true master of a household where Parsley grew well. “Where parsley grows in the garden, the missis is master.” Shropshire Burn, 1883.
Rosemary has been a symbol of remembrance for many centuries in Europe. It was often plated on graves.
Rosemary was also a symbol of fidelity and was often included in the bridal bouquet.
Also, if you slip a sprig of Rosemary in a flower bouquet you are giving away the receiver will have good luck.
Rosemary hung on the outside of a house was believed to protect the home and keep the devil away.
In England there was a saying that if rosemary grew in the garden the woman was the master of the home. This was also said about Parsley. So, if both Parsley and Rosemary were to be found in the garden there should be no doubt about the matter!
Rosemary with blue flowers has also been called the “Rose of Mary”. There is a legend that that Virgin Mary laid her blue cape over a white blossoming rosemary bush. When she removed her cape the flowers on the Rosemary bush had changed color to blue.
Rosemary has its own tale in the mythology story about the birth of Aphrodite (in Greek mythology)/ Venus (in Roman mythology), goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite emerged from the foam of sperm of Uranus which had fallen into the ocean after his son Cronos had cut off his father’s genitals. According to Greek legend Aphrodite rose from the foam on the shores of Cyprus covered in Rosemary.
In Ancient Greece and in Ancient Rome Rosemary also symbolized remembrance. Students would fasten a piece of Rosemary on their clothing to help them remember and concentrate during exams.
Saffron has been associated with love and magic because of its aphrodisiac properties. It makes us think of the dishes containing Saffron which are served at weddings in India. We wonder?
In Ancient Rome Saffron was used to control hangovers. Some of the wealthy citizens would take advantage of this superstition and add a little Saffron to a beverage which they drank before joining a Bacchanalia festival. They had faith that this expensive drink would help them remember what had happened no matter how drunk they got. As an extra bonus they wouldn’t suffer from a frightful hangover.
In Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, the upper class would sometimes add a little saffron to their bath. They believed it would do wonders to the skin, make it glow. There was also the extra bonus of improving their love life.
The robes of Buddhist monks are known as saffron colored. Obviously, they could never use Saffron to dye their robes. Saffron is the most expensive spice on the planet. Luckily there is must cheaper alternative which gives just about the same color; Turmeric.
An old English superstition tells us that a newlywed couple should each plant their own sage bush. The size of the two sage bushes will determine who will be the master of the house.
Sage was one of the herbs in the ancient “Four Thieves Vinegar” believed to fight off the plague during the Middle Ages. Four herbs were mixed in vinegar. The four herbs were sage, rosemary, lavender and thyme.
One story tells that thieves who robbed people who died from the plague used this special mixture and therefore did not get sick themselves. Those who were caught were forced to relieve their secret remedy to avoid punishment.
« He who would live for aye (forever), must eat sage in May. » Old English Proverb
St. John’s Wort
This herb got its name because it blooms just around the birthday of St. John the Baptist June 24th. This day is also his feast day. “Wort” just means “plant” in old English.
St. John’s Wort has a long tradition of being linked to midsummer Solstice (June 24th) in Europe. Bonfires were and still are quite common on this evening. A lost tradition was that people would gather St. John’s Wort and throw these lovely yellow flowers into the bonfire.
Anyone who was brave enough would then take the challenge of jumping over the bonfire with the burning flowers. The reward for this action was considered extremely valuable; all evil spirits had been cleansed from their body.
The Celts associated St. John’s wort with the sun. They called the flower “sol terrestis” which meant “terrestrial sun”.
The botanical name which is “Hypericum” comes from Greek. “Hyper” means above and “eikon” means icon or picture. The definition of the Greek name reflects another superstition.
The flowers were picked and carefully hung right above any religious picture they had in their home. This was done during Midsummer celebrations and considered to be an extra insurance to protect the household from evil spirits.
It was also not uncommon to hang small bouquets of these flowers over their front door. Those who truly were terrified of the malicious spirits lurking about this evening chose the ultimate protection. They naturally fasted a St. John’s Wort on their clothing.
During the Middle Ages in Europe people truly believed Midsummer Night’s Eve was when witches were tremendously active. Witches would travel through the air to their annual gathering. St. John’s Wort came quite handy to make the witches to continue their journey and leave them alone.
Some would seek to be blessed by Saint John himself. In order to obtain the special blessing, it was required to put the flowers of the St. John’s Wort under their pillow just before going to bed.
St. John’s Wort oil has been used for hundreds of years to treat cuts, wounds and conditions of the skin. It is still used for the same purposes.
The oil of St. John’s Wort extracted from the St. John’s Wort is red. This red oil symbolized the blood of John the Baptist. He was beheaded on August 29th.
Salome, the daughter of Herod II was granted one wish by her stepfather Herod Antipas. This was to be the reward for her spectacular dance performance at the banquet on his birthday.
She was encouraged by her mother Princess Herodias to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Princess Herodias was upset with John the Baptist for criticizing her divorcing her first husband and marrying his brother. Salome’s wish was granted and she received John’ head on a plate.
Sweet Violet has a long history. We know that Sweet Violet was sold at the markets in Ancient Greece around 400 B.C.
In Ancient Rome they simply loved Violet wine. Some would also wear wraths made of Violets when drinking their Violet wine. Those who wore these wraths claimed they wouldn’t suffer unbearable hangovers.
Violets and Laurel are the national flower emblems of Greece.
Sweet Violet flowers were associated with love in Ancient Greece and Rome. The flower was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. In Rome Aphrodite was known as the goddess Venus.
The Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – 18 AD) wrote that Persephone was out gathering Violets when Hades (ruler of the Underworld) kidnapped her. Persephone was to be his wife and Queen of the Kingdom of the dead.
Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon loved Violets. When she died violets were planted on her grave. When Napoleon died, he was wearing a locket. Inside the locket were a few strands of Josephine’s hair and a Violet flower that had been picked from her grave.
Sweet Violets used to be the favorite flower to give on Valentine’s Day. Old Valentine cards showed drawings of Violets as a symbol of love.
Legend has it that Valentine used the sap of crushed Violets as ink when writing his last note to the jailor’s daughter signed “Your Valentine”.
Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin have all chosen the Violet as the State Flower.
An old superstition claims that if you see Sweet Violets in your dream it is a sign of prosperity heading your way.
In the book “Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797” by Anne Hughes it is instructed that a good cure for a grouchy husband is to serve him violet pudding.
Thyme has a long tradition of being associated with courage.
In Ancient Rome soldiers believed that adding Thyme to their bath water before going into battle would give them a boost of extra courage.
During the Middle Ages young maidens would embroider Thyme motives on scarfs. These scarfs were gifted to their beloved knight. The Thyme motive symbolized good luck and courage. They certainly need both before going into combat.
In Ancient Greece thyme was used as incense in the temples. The word thyme means “to make a burnt offering” and comes from Greek.
In Europe valerian was used to drive away witches. Any sorceress who tried to enter the home would quickly turn around if valerian was hanging by the door.
In Northern Europe valerian was found hanging outside the barn door. There was a superstition that valerian would protect the farm animals from evil encounters.
During the Middle Ages men were advised to offer the lady they were attracted to some valerian in red wine. That was supposed to make her notice him favorably.
A bridegroom should always carry a little valerian during the wedding ceremony. This would protect him from all the envious elves lurking about.
A married couple who were caught arguing was given the advice to drink valerian tea. Magically this drink would result in the couple making up.
A woman giving birth should always have some valerian under the sheets. This was a vulnerable time in the woman’s life and she was believed to be an easy target for all supernatural creatures. The valerian offered some protection in her time of need.
Vervain / Verbena
Vervain has been considered a magical and sacred herb in many different cultures throughout the centuries.
The name “verbena” means altar plant. This was a sacred herb in Ancient Rome. The meaning of the name reflects how this herb was used. Vervain twigs were bundled together and used to sweep the altar in the temples.
The other name this herb goes by is name “Vervain” stems from the Celtic term “ferfaen; “fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone”. The name was given because it earlier was considered to be a good treatment for treating kidney stones.
The superstitious kept Vervain in the home believing it would protect them from being struck by lightning.
During the Middle Ages Vervain was used as a good luck amulet. Superstitious belief flourished that “Vervain hanged around the neck will bring marvelous and unhoped help”.
One superstition concerning Vervain claimed that if you buried this herb in your garden prosperity was sure to come.
Witches were rumored to use Vervain in their wicked brews and spells. The powers of Vervain worked both ways, both for good and evil. It all depended on the user’s intentions. This was a powerful herb indeed!
Vervain was also considered to have romantic powers and very useful to keep handy when courting.
According to an old Christian legend Wormwood grew in the tracts of the serpent as he crawled out of the Garden of Eden.
In the Bible Wormwood is used as a symbol for the consequences of sin.
A superstition in Southern Europe during the Middle Ages claimed that a man could use Wormwood to get the woman of his dreams. If a man desired a special woman, he was recommended to place some Wormwood in her bed.
The woman would not be able to sleep. She would get out of bed totally hexed by the Wormwood and seek the arms of the man who had put the Wormwood in her bed.
In Germanic paganism Wormwood was a symbol for grieving. Wormwood was thrown on the funeral pyre and also placed on the graves of their loved ones.
In Germany during the 16th century many insisted that the fumes from burning Wormwood would protect their newborn infant from being kidnapped by the devil.
In France some people believed that placing a wreath made from Wormwood on the baby’s head would protect the child from witchcraft. This superstition was practiced as late as the 19th century.
In Scandinavia there was a superstition that you could prevent a baby from getting lice if you rubbed the baby’s head with Wormwood before the child was 12 weeks old.
Others believed that a little Wormwood in the pocket of their clothing would prevent ill-wishers from putting a spell on them.
Dioscorides on Wormwood
Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 AD) was a Greek physician who wrote a five-volume encyclopedia about healing herbs. According to Dioscorides wormwood had advantages beyond a medicinal herb.
He stated that if you added wormwood to the ink mice would not nibble on the paper. He also claimed wormwood was excellent to use as a moth repellent.
Dioscorides suggested a solution for reducing erotic yearnings. If a man who needed to control his need for intimacy, he was to boil wormwood in water, strain and drink as tea in the morning.
Dioscorides recommended wormwood as a remedy for sea sickness. For that purpose, he suggested to add wormwood to a drink and consume the mixture before the voyage.
Pliny the Elder on Wormwood
Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), a Roman naturalist and author had views concerning wormwood. He proclaimed that wormwood was an excellent remedy to fight pinworms.
According to Pliny if you put wormwood in your shoes you would be able to walk great distances without feeling tired.
The official name of Wormwood is Artemisia Absinthium.
Artemisia is named after the Greek goddess named Artemis. She was the goddess of hunting and of wild animals. In Roman m Absinthium mythology Artemis is called Diana. Artemis had a twin brother named Apollo. He was god of light, music and fortune-telling. Their parents were Zeus and Leto.
Absinthium means “without sweetness”. This is an extremely bitter tasting herb.
Wormwood comes from the German word “wermut” which means “preserver of the mind”. They used to think that this herb was good to boost mental capability. Actually, that is quite contradictory with the fact that absinthe, the alcohol drink (in which Wormwood was a main ingredient) was banned in many countries because it caused hallucinations.
Yarrow was believed to protect against evil spirits.
In Egtved, Denmark they found a grave dating back to the Bronze Age. In the grave they found the remains of a woman about 20 years old. Buried along with the woman they discovered some jewelry and a Yarrow plant. Yarrow was used to protect the dead from evil spirits on their journey to the next world.
Many superstitions about Yarrow contradict each other. In many parts of Europe Yarrow was believed to protect against all evil.
In Wales they had a very different opinion. Bringing Yarrow into the home was the same as inviting bad luck. In some areas of Wales, they referred to this plant as “the death flower”.
In Ireland Yarrow was considered auspicious. Many used to hang Yarrow on their houses on Midsummer Night’s Eve to protect the members of the household from ailment the coming year.
In Scotland Yarrow was a blessing of a plant. In old superstition they too claimed Yarrow protected against malicious forces and used it as a protective amulet.
In China yarrow was considered a plant of good fortune. In the past 52 straight, dried yarrow stems were used when consulting the I Ching, Book of Changes. Today it is more common to use coins.
The official name of Yarrow is “Achillea millefolium”. This herb is named after the great Greek hero named Achilles who fought in the Battle of Troy.
He was the son of the goddess Thetis and the mortal Peleus. Unfortunately, Achilles was born a mortal.
The goddess Theis was devastated over the prospect that her son one day would die. The only solution was to dip him into the River Styx.
Thetis took her baby boy to the river. She firmly held on to his heel and quickly dipped him in the magical waters of the River Styx.
Unfortunately, she had held so tight onto his heel that this small area of his body had not been exposed to the water which secured immorality. The only body part that remained mortal and vulnerable was his heel.
Achilles grew up to be a famous hero. In the Battle of Troy Achilles. He was known to use the Yarrow to heal wounded soldiers. He had learned the healing benefits of the herb from a wise centaur (half man and half horse) named Chiron.
In the end Achilles was struck by an arrow on the only vulnerable spot on his body; his heel. He died.